ONE LUCKY FOOL

In Pointer’s (Vivian’s Song, 2009) dramatic novel, a troubled newcomer to a small Texas town unexpectedly becomes a local hero.
In the mid-1950s, William “Rooster” Brown stands outside Mel’s Truck Stop in Merky, Texas, holding a gun. He’s waiting for a waitress who humiliated him by rejecting his offer of a date. But when two would-be robbers suddenly raid the diner, Rooster stops them from raping a girl and possibly murdering the patrons—by shooting them both dead. The Merky townsfolk are smitten with Rooster’s valiant deed, and Mel Tucker—the diner’s owner, whose daughter, Laurie, was nearly assaulted—offers him a job and a place to live. Sheriff Bill Hickey, on the other hand, is skeptical, particularly after hearing that Rooster is the grandson of notorious outlaw Devil Brown. Mel pushes Rooster to run for sheriff in the upcoming election, and Rooster eventually does so, much to the chagrin of the town’s cops. Despite all that happens in these 500-plus pages, including a romance between Rooster and Laurie, surprisingly little narrative time passes—no more than two years. This allows the plot to center on Rooster, an imperfect protagonist who commendably recognizes his flaws: He never forgets his original, dark intentions at Mel’s, which contradict his status as a hero. He’s also torn between having religious faith, like his preacher father, or falling victim to alcohol, as his criminal grandfather did. When Rooster becomes part of the Tucker family by marrying Laurie, it adds a nice dynamic, particularly when he grows weary of Mel’s controlling influence and considers an affair with Merky’s newest resident, a beautiful German woman whose officer husband is overseas. Some of the novel’s supporting characters outshine the Tuckers, such as moonshiners Cletus and Alice, who befriend Rooster; and Harvey, a sympathetic cop whom many have written off as the “town idiot” but who seems to have an eidetic memory. Some scenes are also a bit overlong, as when Rooster undergoes “debate boot camp” during his campaign, but the solid final section significantly amps up the suspense.
An appealing tale that shows that even the luckiest people have barriers to overcome.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0615917832

Page Count: 552

Publisher: Tom Pointer

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2014

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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